Antebellum Reform

Essay by geonishHigh School, 10th gradeA+, June 2006

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There were many reform movements which took place during the 1800s leading up to the Civil War, a primary effect of these movements. Still, each different campaign had at least one aspect of similarity: their cause. Antebellum reform was motivated primarily by humanitarian goals due to the influences of evangelicalism, human morale, and democratic ideals.

Religion played a major role in the lives of all citizens during the building and expansion of the United States into the West. Its greatest influence occurred upon not only the attitudes of people, but also their actions. Evangelicalism was the main religion which people lived by during the 1800s as its influence in the Second Great Awakening proved successful. Instead of preaching brimstone and hellfire sermons, ministers resorted to the hope left for humankind of becoming worthy of God. In turn, the people of the country committed to their families and lessened the amount of drinking and smoking done.

"The American Reformer was the product of evangelical religion, which presented to every person the necessity for positive action to save his own soul." Each man believed now that his wrongdoing could not be undone but overshadowed by a number of good deeds. Therefore, a system likened to community service in the present was formed, helping little by little to improve the life of all citizens in the 1800s.

Human morale also performed a part in contributing to the antebellum reform promoted by humanitarian goals of the time. Greater measures were taken to improve the quality of life for everyone and more importantly to behave appropriately at all times. Manners and etiquette developed from a desire of the upper classes to separate themselves from the lower classes of people although they did so in a discreet way. "[The American reformer] recognized that each cause he...